While the evolution of refractive eye surgery dates back to the 19th century, many point to the early 20th century as the pivotal launching point for corrective eye surgery. It began with the development of a technique known as radial keratotomy, which entailed making multiple incisions on the eye’s surface to change the shape of the cornea and correct vision. A Japanese physician Tutomu Satu experimented with the technique in the 1930s, followed by a Russian doctor, Slava Fyordorov, later that century. By the late 1970s, radial keratotomy had caught on in the United States. While radial keratotomy procedures helped to improve patients’ vision, however, they still were not effective enough to eradicate the patient’s need for eyeglasses.
But in 1978, American doctors stumbled upon a technology, the excimer laser, that would revolutionize the way eye surgeries are performed. At the time, excimer lasers were only being used to develop microchips for computers. But researchers realized the excimer laser could have applications for eye surgery, after seeing its ability to excise biological tissue without harming surrounding cells.
Over the next two decades, the excimer laser was adapted for refractive eye surgery, allowing opthalmologists to shape corneal tissue with extraordinary precision that wasn’t previously possible. By 1987, excimer laser surgery was in use throughout Canada and Europe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first trial of the excimer laser in 1989. Seven years later, the FDA approved the first excimer laser for use in refractive eye surgeries in the United States. Dr. William Boothe became one of the first surgeons to have this laser in his eye center.
From that point on, laser surgery technologies continued to evolve and progress substantially. Initially, the lasers were used for only part of refractive eye surgeries. Corrective eye surgeries consist largely of two steps. The first step involves creating a thin corneal flap that can be folded back to expose corneal tissue. This step is followed by the shaping of the corneal tissue to help refocus light in the right place.
In early procedures, a microkeratome, or handheld surgical blade, was required to create the corneal flap. This procedure is widely referred to as a “LASIK” surgery. But today, refractive eye surgeries can be entirely bladeless—the excimer laser can also be used to create the corneal flap, enabling even greater safety and precision. Bladeless procedures also allow faster healing processes and cause fewer complications. These procedures are known as “INTRALASIK” surgeries.
Since the recent popularization of laser eye surgery, a host of new cutting-edge technologies have emerged to further refine laser procedures, offering even greater precision and better results for patients.
The Boothe Eye Care and Laser Center offers INTRALASIK surgery, along with all of the latest, most advanced laser technologies available in the field today. The founding surgeon, Dr. William Boothe, was among the first surgeons in the United States to be trained on excimer lasers and to offer laser surgery at his practice. A true pioneer of the method, Dr. William Boothe has successfully completed 116,000 LASIK procedures and 59,000 INTRALASIK procedures, making him also one of the most experienced laser surgeons in the country.